Coming to terms with your (temporary) limitations

There are tons of challenges that you face when you’re a struggling artist. From funding to having your most important tools not work (e.g. your car not working, your camera breaking, not having the right equipment for the vision you’re trying to create) it’s hard to make things happen for you when you’re challenged to such a capacity that all you can do is sit back and watch things unfold.

This is the case I’ve been dealing with for the past three months. I planned to start Take 1filming my next documentary by quietly going to each beach I selected on the map and film most of the underwater footage while my producers dealt with the task of pitching my project to investors for funds for the rest. Then, my car broke. Yes, it broke. I’ve been without a car for three months now. The mechanic told me that it needed a new engine and for the past few months I’ve been waiting for him to install the new one I purchased so that I would be able to start production on my projects.

What’s worse? I have no one to help me go film. I reached out to a few local people asking if they were interested in helping me out and being a part of the film, not one was interested enough to come pick me up. This is in great part my fault. I haven’t made enough strong connections to be able to rely on a person to make a project like this happen. Also, I’ve been focusing on the health of my father, who has been struggling with several ailments during the past two months.

Vegan Food
rainbow plate #vegan

So, what have I been doing with my time? Simple, I’ve been taking time to restructure my film plans, to further research the topics I’ve chosen to focus on in my next documentaries and to apply for grants for journalists. I have also perfected my bag making skills, so I can sell them to those interested in having ecologically friendly and stylish handmade bags to either go to the beach, use every day and/or use them as grocery bags. Most importantly I’ve used this ‘forced down time’ to take care of my father, who has been sick more often than ever. Finally, I’ve been posting a lot of vegan food photos on Instagram.  I mean, it’s incredibly delicious food I have been stuffing my pie hole with lately…

The Challenges of Securing Funding

While I have accrued some help by the way of some incredibly talented people in the mainland, I still haven’t secured funding for my projects. Therefore I have continued searching for other ways to make my projects financially happen. With failed attempts of crowdfunding my projects I haven’t let that deter me from continuing forward with the very important issue of conservation and environmental issues that aren’t addressed in the Caribbean.

Still, I’ve come to that point in the road where there’s a giant fork and I wonder if I should move forward to that one road that calls me – it’s winding, filled with rocks, thorns and all sorts of crazy obstacles, but at the end of that road are all the things I’ve always wanted. Or should I go down the road that is simpler to walk down? Of course after taking a deep breath I stepped into the road that leads to my dreams. No matter if it’s the hardest road to travel, or if it’s the lonelier one to walk down, it will lead me to all the things I’ve always wanted.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been days that I’ve wanted to reach out to the popular television show hosts and tell them about my financial struggles so they can ‘donate’ money to my cause – as quickly as those thoughts come to mind I dismiss them. Although many people have been helped by them, I feel that I would be taking the easy way out and that my eventual success wouldn’t be as long lasting if I did reach out them. So, I continue to write grants proposals and send them out. I research the health of coral reefs (Save the Coral Reefs), along with the effects of assault on men and boys (for Forced into Silence the documentary) and chat with those who are in each field that can adequately prepare me to make a film that would be not only educational, but superbly visual and captivating for all audiences.

The point is to continue working on what you can in order to further the chances for completion. Don’t ever let something like not having a car (at the moment) keep you from working on the project. Since there are so many other aspects for a film to come to fruition that needs to be taken care of,  most of which do not require travel time. So, focus on those instead until actual filming can take place.

Keeping the faith

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid in Belle
Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid in Asante’s Belle

Another thing that can prove challenging to many new filmmakers is believing in oneself, believing in your project and keeping the strength to continue moving forward despite the challenges. The trick is to center your focus and have an unwavering passion for your project. You have to be relentless in wanting to make your film. If you can’t find it in yourself, sometimes looking at other’s challenges; for example think that if Oprah Winfrey, Kathryn Bigelow, Amma Asante gave up on their dreams of becoming powerful women in their respective fields we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the life changing episodes of Oprah, and later on she wouldn’t  have produced amazing historical drama directed by the amazing Ava DuVernay that is Selma, nor would we have ever been able to enjoy (the original and extremely bad ass version of) Point Break, The Hurt Locker, much less Zero Dark Thirty, nor would we have been able to learn that there was a black aristocrat (much less fall in love with her) in Asante’s Belle. If the extreme circumstances would have mentally affected J.K. Rowling – the world wouldn’t have known of Harry Potter. If these women can work past the criticism, the rejection, the poverty and achieve their dreams, so can you….so can I.

I know it’s not easy, I mean some days I wake up and wonder ‘why am I doing all of this?’ then I get an email, a comment, a tweet from someone who has seen the work I’ve put out there already encouraging me to keep going because they want to see the end result of a particular thing I’ve started. It motivates me to read the words of someone who reaches out to tell me how their world has been impacted by an article, a video, or a photo I have shared. Then I know, for sure, that I’m not doing this for myself only – but for them. For those who need a push and that’s a huge responsibility that I accept and use as a motivation to keep moving forward.

Focus on what you can control

The only things you can control are your actions and the way you feel about certain situations. Ask yourself these questions when you’re faced with a difficult situation:

  • Do you want be angry and not achieve a solution?
  • What is the immediate solution to this problem?
  • Can you do anything to change the outcome of this and what is it?
  • Are you going to focus on the impossibilities or will you positively impact your current challenges?

Once you’re in a place that all you can do is wait for something to be resolved (e.g. your car being fixed, getting people interested in funding your project) take care of what you can control. Keep working on immediate things; focus on what things that is feasible for you at the moment. But never, ever give up on the main goal.

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